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Watercress Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses

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What is Watercress?

Watercress is a plant with deep green leaves, crisp and paler stems which is available all year round especially from April until September. It is related to mustard and is one of the strongest-tasting salad leaves available. Watercress is known have a pungent, slightly bitter, peppery flavour and is highly nutritious, containing significant amounts of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C and E.

Health Benefits of Watercress

Bone health: Watercress works in reducing risk of osteoporosis. Calcium works in repairing and building bone by effecting the increase in the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for this beneficial activity. This benefit of calcium is essential for the aging population though the youthful population may also benefit if their lifestyle sedentary which promotes bone density loss. Watercress is also a good source of folate which plays a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density. Post-menopausal women may have benefit from folate in their diet as a preventive against osteoporosis.

Pregnancy: Folate is important to the development of a healthy embryo as it plays an important role in normal cellular division. Additionally, consumption of at least 400mcg of folate daily by pregnant women is shown to reduce incidence of neural tube deficiency. Watercress with its high content of folate may help in reducing risk of ailments such as neural tube deficiency during pregnancy.

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Common cold: Watercress is a good source of vitamin C and its intake may help in reducing risk of cold. Vitamin C rich food is an effective remedy of common cold. The immune protective ability of vitamin C shows that consuming food rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of cold by 66 %.

Breast Cancer: Watercress has such effective cancer preventive phytonutrient that even eating a single salad shows increase of molecules into the body’s circulatory system that may prevent and stop the recurrence of breast cancer. Watercress is rich in vitamin C that may also be beneficial in reducing oxidative stress caused by cancer in high concentrations and preventing tumours. Folate also is associated with low risk of cancer. The increased daily consumption of folate did not pose any health risks and proved most beneficial protection against estrogen negative receptor breast cancer tumours rather than estrogen positive receptor tumours.

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Thyroid health: Watercress is a member of the brassica family of cruciferous vegetable which have shown beneficial effect in thyroid health. Watercress like other brassica’s may work by reducing thyroid hormone production and are most beneficial when eaten raw. Watercress may also be lightly steamed so not to lose its nutritional value.

Cardiovascular health: In addition to the nutrient content of watercress many secondary metabolites that may help lower risk of many chronic diseases. Cruciferous plants like watercress are shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL-Cholesterol which reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and other chronic heart disease. Watercress contains vitamin C which works as an antioxidant and help in reducing heart tissue damage caused by oxidative stress. Vitamin C is active in the process of embryonic cells developing into cardiac myocyctes and improving heart health.

Uses of Watercress

For optimum freshness, watercress can be submerged in water and stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Because watercress grows in water, it should be washed thoroughly, then soaked for half an hour or so in cool water with hydrogen peroxide added (around one tablespoon per quart) to remove any pollutants, parasites, or other impurities. Before eating, rinse again and separate the leaves from the fibres and roots.

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• It can be made into soup or combined in a salad with milder leaves

Watercress, Spinach, and Pear Salad
Place watercress and spinach in a large bowl. Cut pears into thick matchstick-like slices. Toss gently with the watercress and spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Drizzle dressing over salad and garnish with grated carrot and toasted sesame seeds.

Nutritional value of Watercress

Weight for weight, watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas. Each phyto nutrient is where the health benefits of watercress are contained. These phyto nutrients and their benefits will now be discussed. Watercress contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus which are all required for a healthy body.